It was absolute music: you can take Bach and play his music with a steel-drum band and it will sound like Bach. And you can orchestrate Monk’s solos and accompaniments for a salsa band and it will sound like Monk.
Reading the banal pages of this journal reminds me, more than anything else, of the disconnect between what I thought I was supposed to feel (what a normal person would feel) and what I actually felt. This disconnect followed me for a long time. It’s always there, a hitch or hiccup in the otherwise smooth surface of a day. Single sentences that suggest the other half of the story: “Her party just made me feel depressed. … He is a nice person, very friendly, but a little too “something I don’t like” for me. … I want to be normal, but I’m unable to do it.” It was only years after VOLUME I that I realized the disconnect was the thing I needed to write about.
This idea of “ruining,” or really, “changing” Cuba, felt condescending and arrogant, erasing the Cuban people from their own narrative. Since the founding of the United States, when Thomas Jefferson’s “candidly confessed[ed]” his desire to colonize the island nation to the moment when Americans “celebrated” Cuba’s independence from Spain—and then proceeded to exploit the country’s natural wealth for half a century—we’ve treated Cubans as minor players in their own story.